Monday, January 26, 2009

Temporary Kitchen

I'm sitting here waiting for the mayor's state of the city address to start and admiring the video creation skills of of the folks over at KTOP, the Oakland government access channel. Since we don't have cable, we don't get it on-air, but thanks to the intertubes, I can watch in online. Their 'random pics of Oakland' video reminds me of what a beautiful, diverse city we live in. There's even footage from Habitat for Humanity showing a wall going up on the Thrivent Builds house (I might be in that shot, but the online video quality was too bad for me to tell.)

In any event, I spent today taking out some more parts of the kitchen wall. Partly because it'll help give K and I a better idea of the space before we finalize the design (which we need to do soon), and partly because it's a lot more fun than searching my office for the install CD for the home design software I made the plans with.

While I was working on it, a thought occurred to me. We're planning on using the other bathroom as part of the kitchen while the kitchen remodel is underway. One problem will be washing dishes, either in the bathroom sink, or maybe in a makeshit sink in the shower. Why not put the dishwasher in the bathroom? It has updated wiring now including a GFCI outlet, it has water, so why not? OK, problem number one is space...even though a dishwasher only has a footpring of 2'x2' or so, the bathroom doesn't have that kind of space that wouldn't be in the way of the sink or the door. So...why not temporarily take out the toilet, and put the dishwasher there? It'll cost me a wax ring and a bit of work, but it'd be pretty easy, and simplify having no real kitchen.

So (ignoring code issues), is there some good reason not to do this?

edit: I forgot to mention that the dishwasher is on its last legs, so we'll be getting a new one when the kitchen is done. So even if the dishwasher got damaged by being more exposed in the bathroom, it wouldn't be a big deal.

Friday, January 23, 2009

House History

ineffective insulation, anyone?

After a break for church media prep, the MLK Day of Service, watching the inauguration, and having some of K's friends from the spiritual direction program over for dinner, yesterday I got back to updating the electrical for the old bathroom. I realized it would be much easier to run new wires into the switch box if I took off a section of paneling in the hallway outside the bathroom. In doing so, I discovered a bit of house history.

First, I found more of that weird insulation I'd found in the other wall of the bathroom. I'd found out before it was paper pulp insulation and it didn't have asbestos, but that was it. This time, it was intact enough to find out exactly what it is. It's Kimsul insulation from Kimberly-Clark. In researching what that is, one reference said it was made famous by that finest of home improvement films, Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House. (Cary Grant apparently says, "Wrap your home in a blanket of Kimsul." I've seen the movie several times, but don't recall that. I love it, so I'll just have to watch it again.)

DIY, 1943 style

Then I came across this gem of an ad from 1943. I've zoomed in on step one of the quick and easy instructions. 'If your attic is unfloored' is a good start. But check out the woman holding the other end of the tape. She's balanced on ceiling joists. In a skirt. And high heels. But still managing to show some leg. Eat your heart out, DIY Diva :-)

In any event, why they'd put the insulation here was even more a mystery than the other piece I'd found. This was again in an interior wall. But only in one stud bay, and only in the upper half of it. It obviously wasn't for warmth, and only being in part of the wall, it wasn't going to do much for noise reduction. It also showed serious compression and sagging, which isn't too surprising given it's made of paper.

Mouse Hawkins

The second thing I found was a name. I know a few names and things associated with the house: POs were a couple of circus people (clown shoes in the closet during the inspection) and inherited it from her uncle. Said uncle was a bit of an odd duck, and died here (oh my). The house was built in 1948, but beyond that, not much. Scrawled on the back of the drywall in the bathroom wall is the name "Mouse Hawkins". I didn't find anything useful about the name on the web. (The fact that Mouse Hawkins is the name of a supporting character in a webcomic is not particularly useful.) What was Mouse's contribution to the building of the house?

City Homestead just blogged about some names they found in their house. What sort of interesting things have you found out about or in your house?

Monday, January 19, 2009

MLK Day of Service

Rather than re-post, I'll refer you to my (fairly new) other blog, Our Oakland, for a brief writeup of my MLK Day of Service activities and some pictures. Yes, they were construction-related :-)

What did you do for the MLK Day of Service? (NV, I know you spent the day nursing a cold, so you're excused.)

Friday, January 16, 2009


I shouldn't be surprised anymore by the way I find stuff done in this house anymore, but I am. Yesterday I worked on one of the few remaining "should be done before the kitchen demolition and remodel" projects, namely updating the electrical in the original bathroom. The kitchen (i.e., former front hall and porch) shares a wall with the bathroom, so with the back side open, it's a fine time to get the electrical up to date.

So yesterday I turned off the power to that circuit, went into the attic space, and started pulling out the old wire. Based on previous experience, I figured something important (like the kitchen) might be downstream of it, like when disconnecting some of the wiring in the hall lead to no power in the old outlets in K's office. But after pulling the old stuff, I restored power, then flipped on the kitchen light, et voila! So I didn't think any more about it.

Then K made coffee this morning, and when I got up, I asked where it was, and she said it was brewing in the living room. Uh-oh. Seems the kitchen lights were not downstream of the bathroom lights, but the outlets are. Well, it's all going to be redone anyway, but that accelerates the steps towards demolition. It kind of gives me the impression they wired the rooms and outlets in alphabetical order. Maybe organized in a non-Latin based language. Like Klingon.

Today I went over to the building department and got updated permits, as well as trying to do my part to support Oakland businesses that were vandalized by some yahoos in the wake of the Oscar Grant killing. I ran into an old friend I used to work with, who was in downtown Oakland to...go to the building department. He and his wife are considering buying a house here in Oakland, but it's had a fair amount of unpermitted work done, including a garage to family room conversion, major kitchen work, and more. They're nervous enough because it's their first house, but this might be enough to kill the deal.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Cats Have Won

wretched excess?

As I've written about before, we've included some kitty-friendly features in our addition. We were inspired in part by The Cats' House, but we'd never go that far (we say repeatedly to reassure ourselves.) Well, someone else would. They've done their own Cats' House in a sleek, modern style in Japan. TreeHugger considers it wretched excess, though besides the heavy-duty grill to fence in the balconies (which is good for preventing your little darlings from decimating the local bird population), the incremental cost for the various steps and shelves is very low and isn't taking extra space. I don't read Japanese to know all the particulars, but it hardly seems wretchedly excessive or un-green to me. Maybe the house is 50% bigger just for the cats? And lest the feel left out, the same builder has a house full of dog-friendly features, too.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Our Oakland

Oakland - many parts, one whole

There's a great post over at City Homestead about Oakland in the aftermath of the shooting of Oscar Grant by a BART police officer. My Oakland is different their Oakland, and was different than Oscar Grant's Oakland, but it's all Our Oakland. It's a large, diverse, beautiful city, and I love it. I'll be the first to admit that I might feel differently if I lived in some other parts of Oakland, but it's a wonderful city.

Yesterday I worked out at Habitat for Humanity, south of the Oakland Coliseum. I've been volunteering in that neighborhood for almost 14 years, but I don't really know it, and the only people I know who live there are Habitat homeowners. But slowly but surely the neighborhood is improving. Besides two large Habitat developments, there are a number of commercial developments along 98th, and just the other side of the BART tracks is a large development of Pulte Homes.

Today K and I went to some other Oaklands. A fawn died under our carport, and animal control warns on their website that living animals come first so it could be a long wait, and I didn't want to dig the requisite 4'-deep hole to bury it. So we carefully slid it into a heavy bag and took it to Oakland's animal shelter. The drive took us from Montclair, through Glenview, to the Dimond District where Oscar Grant worked, down Fruitvale Avenue to the Fruitvale District where he died. There were no signs of the protests there (the vandalism didn't start until they got closer to downtown) -- it was the same Fruitvale I've gotten to know over the last couple of years. Edis and his family live there, and I've made frequent trips to the nearby Home Depot and to Economy Lumber. It was a beautiful day, with food cooking, people shopping, the sun shining.

After the animal shelter, we went to a small shoreline park to shift gears from our grim task. Union Point Park is a little park along the Oakland estuary near Coast Guard Island, squeezed between the estuary and an industrial area. (I'd been there before because the Alameda County household hazardous waste facility is nearby.) It's home to a playground, picnic area, marina, and a distinctive viewing platform. The viewing platform is all the more interesting viewed from above, when its spiral shape becomes apparent. The park also contains the statue pictured above, Sigame/Follow Me, which reflects the diversity of Oakland by honoring various Oakland women of note. Like Oakland and her people, it's made of many disparate parts, but is one whole. Sometimes we forget that. But it's all Our Oakland.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Ooo...we're trendy

According to (via Charles and Hudson) our house is pretty trendy and has features that will help boost its value with buyers. We have their "10 Things You Must Put in Your Next House" list pretty decently covered:
  1. Radiant-heated bathroom floors - check
  2. Butcher block countertops - nope
  3. Glass tiles - considering for the kitchen
  4. Dual flush toilet - check
  5. Low-flow showerheads - check
  6. On-demand water heater - check
  7. Water re-circulator - considered, rejected for now because our water usage is low
  8. Folding patio-door - maybe if we had a bigger house...
  9. Central vacuum - nope
  10. Excellent insulation - check -- I've blogged about this before (1, 2)
That's 5 yesses and 1 maybe without evening trying in an addition and remodel. Of course, we're doing the work on the house to make it what we want and to reduce the resources it uses, not to increase the sales value. The nice-but-not-million-dollar view from the bedroom is for us, not the next people who own the house. But it's nice to know the work isn't detracting from the value of the house. The economy is doing that well enough on its own.


from the slang-that-sounds-even-cooler-because-it's-in-German department

I'm feeling a bit unterhopft, aren't you?

Back to work

Today I worked on the house again. Not cleaning, not moving stuff, but actual home improvementy-type stuff.

Actually I did some yesterday, too, putting up radiant barrier insulation under the addition. But mostly I rearranged some of my computer gear (to put the wireless router up higher, amongst other things, for better reception around the house) and cleaned up my office a bit, so it didn't really feel like working on the house, because it mostly wasn't.

But today there was no cleaning. I rerouted the circuit for our offices (bedrooms #2 and #3) from one subpanel to the other. I'd originally run it to the subpanel I added for the addition and kitchen, because there wasn't room on the main panel and I hadn't added the other subpanel yet. But it makes a lot more sense location-wise on the 2nd subpanel, and frees up a slot for the myriad circuits that will be needed for the kitchen. I also pulled out the last of the old electrical runs that I replaced with new, up to code runs back in November.

On the less fun end of the spectrum was pulling out some of the insulation the POs had installed incorrectly. What part of "do not leave facing exposed" was unclear? The unfun part was playing Russian roulette, and hoping the next piece I pulled down wasn't covered in mouse droppings. Urgh. Anyways, I pulled it down where I was running electrical, installed some radiant barrier insulation, and reinstalled the unsoiled insulation the right way around.

So at the end of the day, nothing looks different. But it will simplify running electrical for some new outlets in K's office, and will simplify things later.